Monday, March 16, 2015

A Police Gadget Tracks Phones? Shhh! It’s Secret

MARCH 15, 2015

A powerful new surveillance tool being adopted by police departments across the country comes with an unusual requirement: To buy it, law enforcement officials must sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from saying almost anything about the technology.

Any disclosure about the technology, which tracks cellphones and is often called StingRay, could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent it, the F.B.I. has said in an affidavit. But the tool is adopted in such secrecy that communities are not always sure what they are buying or whether the technology could raise serious privacy concerns.

The confidentiality has elevated the stakes in a longstanding debate about the public disclosure of government practices versus law enforcement’s desire to keep its methods confidential. While companies routinely require nondisclosure agreements for technical products, legal experts say these agreements raise questions and are unusual given the privacy and even constitutional issues at stake.

“It might be a totally legitimate business interest, or maybe they’re trying to keep people from realizing there are bigger privacy problems,” said Orin S. Kerr, a privacy law expert at George Washington University. “What’s the secret that they’re trying to hide?”

The issue led to a public dispute three weeks ago in Silicon Valley, where a sheriff asked county officials to spend $502,000 on the technology. The Santa Clara County sheriff, Laurie Smith, said the technology allowed for locating cellphones — belonging to, say, terrorists or a missing person. But when asked for details, she offered no technical specifications and acknowledged she had not seen a product demonstration.

Buying the technology, she said, required the signing of a nondisclosure agreement.

“So, just to be clear,” Joe Simitian, a county supervisor, said, “we are being asked to spend $500,000 of taxpayers’ money and $42,000 a year thereafter for a product for the name brand which we are not sure of, a product we have not seen, a demonstration we don’t have, and we have a nondisclosure requirement as a precondition. You want us to vote and spend money,” he continued, but “you can’t tell us more about it.”

The technology goes by various names, including StingRay, KingFish or, generically, cell site simulator. It is a rectangular device, small enough to fit into a suitcase, that intercepts a cellphone signal by acting like a cellphone tower.

The technology can also capture texts, calls, emails and other data, and prosecutors have received court approval to use it for such purposes.

Cell site simulators are catching on while law enforcement officials are adding other digital tools, like video cameras, license-plate readers, drones, programs that scan billions of phone records and gunshot detection sensors. Some of those tools have invited resistance from municipalities and legislators on privacy grounds.

The nondisclosure agreements for the cell site simulators are overseen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and typically involve the Harris Corporation, a multibillion-dollar defense contractor and a maker of the technology. What has opponents particularly concerned about StingRay is that the technology, unlike other phone surveillance methods, can also scan all the cellphones in the area where it is being used, not just the target phone.

“It’s scanning the area. What is the government doing with that information?” said Linda Lye, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which in 2013 sued the Justice Department to force it to disclose more about the technology. In November, in a response to the lawsuit, the government said it had asked the courts to allow the technology to capture content, not just identify subscriber location.

The nondisclosure agreements make it hard to know how widely the technology has been adopted. But news reports from around the country indicate use by local and state police agencies stretching from Los Angeles to Wisconsin to New York, where the state police use it. Some departments have used it for several years. Money for the devices comes from individual agencies and sometimes, as in the case of Santa Clara County, from the federal government through Homeland Security grants.

Christopher Allen, an F.B.I. spokesman, said “location information is a vital component” of law enforcement. The agency, he said, “does not keep repositories of cell tower data for any purpose other than in connection with a specific investigation.”

A fuller explanation of the F.B.I.’s position is provided in two publicly sworn affidavits about StingRay, including one filed in 2014 in Virginia. In the affidavit, a supervisory special agent, Bradley S. Morrison, said disclosure of the technology’s specifications would let criminals, including terrorists, “thwart the use of this technology.”

“Disclosure of even minor details” could harm law enforcement, he said, by letting “adversaries” put together the pieces of the technology like assembling a “jigsaw puzzle.” He said the F.B.I. had entered into the nondisclosure agreements with local authorities for those reasons. In addition, he said, the technology is related to homeland security and is therefore subject to federal control.

In a second affidavit, given in 2011, the same special agent acknowledged that the device could gather identifying information from phones of bystanders. Such data “from all wireless devices in the immediate area of the F.B.I. device that subscribe to a particular provider may be incidentally recorded, including those of innocent, nontarget devices.”

But, he added, that information is purged to ensure privacy rights.

In December, two senators, Patrick J. Leahy and Charles E. Grassley, sent a letter expressing concerns about the scope of the F.B.I.’s StingRay use to Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, and Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security.

The Harris Corporation declined to comment, according to Jim Burke, a company spokesman. Harris, based in Melbourne, Fla., has $5 billion in annual sales and specializes in communications technology, including battlefield radios.

Jon Michaels, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies government procurement, said Harris’s role with the nondisclosure agreements gave the company tremendous power over privacy policies in the public arena.

“This is like the privatization of a legal regime,” he said. Referring to Harris, he said: “They get to call the shots.”

For instance, in Tucson, a journalist asking the Police Department about its StingRay use was given a copy of a nondisclosure agreement. “The City of Tucson shall not discuss, publish, release or disclose any information pertaining to the product,” it read, and then noted: “Without the prior written consent of Harris.”

The secrecy appears to have unintended consequences. A recent article in The Washington Post detailed how a man in Florida who was accused of armed robbery was located using StingRay.

As the case proceeded, a defense lawyer asked the police to explain how the technology worked. The police and prosecutors declined to produce the machine and, rather than meet a judge’s order that they do so, the state gave the defendant a plea bargain for petty theft.

At the meeting in Santa Clara County last month, the county supervisors voted 4 to 1 to authorize the purchase, but they also voted to require the adoption of a privacy policy.

(Sheriff Smith argued to the supervisors that she had adequately explained the technology and said she resented that Mr. Simitian’s questioning seemed to “suggest we are not mindful of people’s rights and the Constitution.”)

A few days later, the county asked Harris for a demonstration open to county supervisors. The company refused, Mr. Simitian said, noting that “only people with badges” would be permitted. Further, he said, the company declined to provide a copy of the nondisclosure agreement — at least until after the demonstration.“Not only is there a nondisclosure agreement, for the time being, at least, we can’t even see the nondisclosure agreement,” Mr. Simitian said. “We may be able to see it later, I don’t know.”

Nearly At ‘Full Employment’? 10 Reasons Why The Unemployment Numbers Are A Massive Lie

On Friday, we learned that the official “unemployment rate” has fallen to 5.5 percent. Since an unemployment rate of 5 percent is considered to be “full employment” by many economists, many in the mainstream media took this as a sign that the U.S. economy has almost fully “recovered” since the last recession. 

In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, some Federal Reserve officials believe that “the U.S. economy is already at full employment."  But how can this possibly be?  It certainly does not square with reality.  People that have been struggling with unemployment for years and that still cannot find a decent job. 

So what in the world is going on?  How can the government be telling us that we are nearly at “full employment” when so many people can’t find work?  Could it be possible that the government numbers are misleading?

The official “unemployment rate” (U3) has become so politicized and so manipulated that it is essentially meaningless at this point.  The following are 10 reasons why…
#1 Since February 2008, the size of the U.S. population has grown by 16.8 million people, but the number of full-time jobs has actually decreased by 140,000.

#2 The percentage of working age Americans that have a job right now is still about the same as it was during the depths of the last recession.  Posted below is a chart that shows how the employment-population ratio has changed since the beginning of the decade.  Does this look like a full-blown “employment recovery” to you?…


#3 The primary reason for the decline in the official “unemployment rate” is the fact that the government now considers millions upon millions of long-term unemployed workers to “no longer be in the labor force."  Just check out the following numbers
The number of Americans participating in the labor force has been on a decline for the past few years. Nearly 33 percent of the Americans above age 16 are not part of the workforce, the highest number since 1978. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report issued recently has found 92,898,000 Americans above age 16 not a part of the labor force of the country as on February 2015. When President Obama took over the office in January 2009, nearly 80,529,000 Americans were not a part of the labor force. The number has increase by nearly 12 million over the last few years.

#4 Over the past couple of years, the labor force participation rate in this country has been hovering near mutli-decade lows
The labor force participation rate hovered between 62.9 percent and 62.7 percent in the eleven months from April 2014 through February, and has been 62.9 percent or lower in 13 of the 17 months since October 2013. Prior to that, the last time the rate was below 63 percent was 37 years ago, in March 1978 when it was 62.8 percent, the same rate it was in February.

#5 When you add the number of “officially unemployed” Americans (8.7 million) to the number of Americans “not in the labor force” (92.9 million), you get a grand total of 101.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.  Does that sound like “full employment” to you?

#6 The quality of our jobs continues to decline.  Right now, only 44 percent of U.S. adults are employed for 30 or more hours each week.

#7 Millions upon millions of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs because that is all they can find, and wages for American workers are at depressingly low levels.  The following numbers come directly from the Social Security Administration
-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.

-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.

-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.

#8 The average duration of unemployment for an unemployed worker is still about twice as long as it was just prior to the last recession.

#9 Most Americans feel as though the Obama administration has done little to nothing to help the middle class.  Just consider the following poll numbers
According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, Americans see government policies under the Obama administration as having mostly benefited wealthy people, large corporations and financial institutions.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said government policies have done little or nothing to help the middle class, and 65 percent said they have done nothing to help the poor. Sixty-eight percent said the policies have done nothing to help small businesses.

Meanwhile, 45 percent said the policies have done a “great deal” to help large banks and financial institutions, 38 percent say they have helped large corporations, and 36 percent say they have helped the wealthy.

#10 If the unemployment rate was calculated honestly, we would all be talking about the horrific “unemployment crisis” that we were currently enduring.  According to John Williams of, the real unemployment rate in the United States right now is above 23%.

U.S. politicians and the corporate mainstream media are attempting to convince us that everything is just fine. But what they are telling us simply does not match the cold, hard reality on the streets.

And since the talking heads on television are proclaiming that we are nearly at “full employment," that just makes millions upon millions of Americans that can’t seem to find work no matter how hard they try feel even worse than they already do.

If jobs are “easy to get," then those that are chronically unemployment must have “something wrong” with them.  That is the message that we are being given.  If the mainstream media says that unemployment has gone way down, then anyone that is still unemployed must be really “lazy," right?

When you are unemployed for an extended period of time, it can really suck the life right out of you.  It can be really tempting to believe that you are viewed as a failure by your family and friends.  And for the government to lie to us like this just makes things even harder.

If you are unemployed and can’t find a job right now, I want you to understand that you are caught in the midst of a long-term downward economic spiral which is going to get a lot worse.

When the government tells you that we are in a “recovery," they are lying to you. And when the government tells you that things are about to get a lot better, they are lying to you.


Tackling The Real Unemployment Rate: 11%

Louis Efron - Forbes

Imagine being served your poolside drinks by a lawyer, or getting your chicken sandwich delivered by an experienced marketing professional. The first is a friend of mine, the second my waitress a few weeks ago. Both lost jobs due to economic downturns at their organizations. Both took available work to pay the bills while looking for new positions in their chosen professions.

My friend and the waitress are victims of a massive but hidden problem called underemployment. Watching falling unemployment numbers being reported at 5.5%, down from nearly 10% four years earlier, is simply misleading.

Despite the significant decrease in the official U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unemployment rate, the real unemployment rate is over double that at 11%. This number reflects the government’sU-6report, which accounts for the full unemployment picture including those “marginally attached to the labor force,” plus those “employed part time for economic reasons.”

English: Bureau of Labor Statistics measuremen...
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measurements U1, U2, U3, U4, U5 and U6. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marginally attached” describes individuals not currently in the labor force who wanted and were available for work. The official unemployment numbers exclude them, because they did not look for work in the 4 weeks preceding the unemployment survey. In February, this marginally attached group accounted for 1.052 million people. To put that in perspective, there are currently 8 states in the U.S. with populations smaller than 1.052 million.

302,000 discouraged workers – workers not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them – are included within the list of marginally attached people. Another 6.635 million were not considered unemployed because they were employed part-time for economic reasons. Those people are also called involuntary part-time workers – working part-time because their hours were cut back or because they were unable to secure a full-time job.

When you look at state populations – using the 6.635 million – the number represents more than the population of all but the 14 states with the highest populations.

These numbers mean the U.S. has over 7 million workers only marginally engaged in their work situation.

They don’t contribute their full potential to their households, the economy or society in general. While reporting a low, declining unemployment number may comfort people, we can’t ignore the millions of workers feeling the pain of the real unemployment number of 11%.

Dan Diamond’s Forbes article, Why The ‘Real’ Unemployment Rate Is Higher Than You Think highlights another disturbing fact that compounds the challenge: The longer you’re without a job, the less likely you’ll get called back for an interview. By the eighth month of unemployment the callback rate falls by about 45%. The article concludes “many employers see these would-be workers as damaged goods.”

These same people could be contributing greatly to the economy. Instead, they are spending their days trying to secure employment or working in unfulfilling part-time jobs while depleting their savings and 401K’s to supplement their income. Or worse yet, living off their credit cards just to survive.

The answer to these challenges is not solely job creation, but creating the right jobs to maximize a labor force.

Here is the solution:

Quality Over Quantity

Getting people back to work is good, but if the quality of their employment is down or the money earned insufficient you create other problems:
  • unsatisfied and disengaged workers
  • low productivity and work quality
  • high turnover and operating costs
  • financial, social, and household strain
To create quality jobs there must be an accurate window into the people needing work, not just programs in place to retrain highly skilled and experienced workers for low-skilled jobs. Retraining should be available, but for those truly desiring a new career. There must be an effort by employers to fully utilize and capitalize on the talents their potential employees can bring to their organizations.

When interviewing candidates – or evaluating your current workforce – look beyond the role they are pursuing or filling. Assess what else they can deliver for your organization. What skills and experiences are they not using in their current role? Is there a way to expand their current jobs to include and leverage missed opportunities? Paying attention to what is on a candidate’s and employee’s resume, closely observing their work, and asking good questions about other contributions they feel they can make are effective ways of performing this assessment.

Post assessment, work-sharing and job rotation programs provide employees a chance to apply unused but valuable experience and to contribute at higher levels.

High-Skilled Jobs Promote Healthy Economies

While governments may believe low unemployment is the key to economic success, it has not proven true. In 24/7 Wall St.’s article Nine Countries Where Everyone Has A Job, a highlighted 2012 study concluded: “only a minority of the countries with low unemployment actually have a healthy economy where middle-class jobs are abundant.” These middle-class, higher skilled jobs tend to have a greater impact on innovation, productivity and improved efficiency.

After World War II, Europe’s economy recovered quickly despite its destroyed factories and infrastructure. This was primarily due to maximizing and strategically leveraging the experienced workforce.

Unlike investing in machines – which need replacing over time – human knowledge becomes stronger and more valuable the more it is used and developed. Highly skilled people grow weaker and become less valuable to our economy when they spend their days looking for work or occupied in jobs that don’t further develop and hone their capabilities.

A product designer spending 40 hours a week pondering and developing new products – plus getting additional training – will become more creative, knowledgeable and innovative. He/she will also add further value to their organization the more they work in their job.

An assembly line worker instructed to repeat the same required task over and over has little room to add more value to him/herself or their organization. Except for their own assertively offered suggestions, that worker may only add value when their task alters as a result of innovations from higher-skilled workers. While the product designer can help other product designers around him or her get better; the assembly line worker may again be limited by the job and unable to effect change in the same way.

Innovation First

In the early 1900s, economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the term “creative destruction” – occurring when something new destroys something older. When an organization creates a new product or finds a better way of doing something, it can eliminate its competition. The invention of the personal computer is a great example of this. Many mainframe computer companies became obsolete when the personal computer arrived. On the other hand, that creation allowed new organizations and jobs to develop.

The invention of photography revolutionized the world, eliminating some professions, but creating many new ones. Before photography, some prisons employed “recognizing officers” – people who identified repeat offenders. With cameras obtainable and affordable, photographers replaced the recognizing officer to process mug shots of each prisoner.

Schumpeter asserted that the “process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.” It is ebb and flow; a recreation or a rebirth sustained by constant innovation. As new ideas come to life, so do new industries, organizations and jobs. To keep innovative people working, organizations and governments must create jobs for them and invest in their progressive ideas.

Governments and organizations that create quality, high-skilled jobs focused on innovation will yield more of the right jobs, engage their entire workforce, and ultimately create a diversity of jobs at all levels. Creating such jobs is key to economic growth and sustainability. This, in turn, will fulfill the needs of the underemployed who desperately want to make a difference to their communities and the world.

If a country loses its most educated and skilled people to other countries due to a lack of fulfilling jobs, that economy will stagnate.

Facing Reality

Technology will change the jobs we do.

While secretaries, telephone operators, word processors and typists were rapidly disappearing between 2000 and 2010, employment in computer systems design and related services grew by a healthy 18% around the same period (BLS). The emerging sector even withstood the recent recession losing only 1% of its workforce during the downturn. From 2003 to 2013, BLS reported 37 percent employment growth in the IT industry.

Highly skilled innovators that dream-up and advance our future will create new jobs and industries. The more high skilled jobs there are, the lower both unemployment and underemployment will become.

Robert Reich: Why Americans Are Fucked and Europeans Are Not

The U.S. economy is picking up steam but most Americans aren’t feeling it.
The U.S. economy is picking up steam but most Americans aren’t feeling it. By contrast, most European economies are still in bad shape, but most Europeans are doing relatively well.

What’s behind this? Two big facts.

First, American corporations exert far more political influence in the United States than their counterparts exert in their own countries.

In fact, most Americans have no influence at all. That’s the conclusion of Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, who analyzed 1,799 policy issues — and found that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Instead, American lawmakers respond to the demands of wealthy individuals (typically corporate executives and Wall Street moguls) and of big corporations – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.

The second fact is most big American corporations have no particular allegiance to America. They don’t want Americans to have better wages. Their only allegiance and responsibility to their shareholders — which often requires lower wages  to fuel larger profits and higher share prices.

When GM went public again in 2010, it boasted of making 43 percent of its cars in place where labor is less than $15 an hour, while in North America it could now pay “lower-tiered” wages and benefits for new employees.

American corporations shift their profits around the world wherever they pay the lowest taxes. Some are even morphing into foreign corporations.

As an Apple executive told The New York Times, “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems.”

I’m not blaming American corporations. They’re in business to make profits and maximize their share prices, not to serve America.

But because of these two basic facts – their dominance on American politics, and their interest in share prices instead of the wellbeing of Americans – it’s folly to count on them to create good American jobs or improve American competitiveness, or represent the interests of the United States in global commerce.

By contrast, big corporations headquartered in other rich nations are more responsible for the wellbeing of the people who live in those nations.

That’s because labor unions there are typically stronger than they are here — able to exert pressure both at the company level and nationally.

VW’s labor unions, for example, have a voice in governing the company, as they do in other big German corporations. Not long ago, VW even welcomed the UAW to its auto plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Tennessee’s own politicians nixed it.)

Governments in other rich nations often devise laws through tri-partite bargains involving big corporations and organized labor. This process further binds their corporations to their nations.

Meanwhile, American corporations distribute a smaller share of their earnings to their workers than do European or Canadian-based corporations. 

And top U.S. corporate executives make far more money than their counterparts in other wealthy countries.
The typical American worker puts in more hours than Canadians and Europeans, and gets little or no paid vacation or paid family leave. In Europe, the norm is five weeks paid vacation per year and more than three months paid family leave.

And because of the overwhelming clout of American firms on U.S. politics, Americans don’t get nearly as good a deal from their governments as do Canadians and Europeans.

Governments there impose higher taxes on the wealthy and redistribute more of it to middle and lower income households. Most of their citizens receive essentially free health care and more generous unemployment benefits than do Americans.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that even though U.S. economy is "doing better," most Americans are not.

The U.S. middle class is no longer the world’s richest. After considering taxes and transfer payments, middle-class incomes in Canada and much of Western Europe are higher than in U.S. The poor in Western Europe earn more than do poor Americans.

Finally, when at global negotiating tables – such as the secretive process devising the “Trans Pacific Partnership” trade deal — American corporations don’t represent the interests of Americans. They represent the interests of their executives and shareholders, who are not only wealthier than most Americans but also reside all over the world.

Which is why the pending Partnership protects the intellectual property of American corporations — but not American workers’ health, safety, or wages, and not the environment.

The Obama administration is casting the Partnership as way to contain Chinese influence in the Pacific region. The agents of America’s interests in the area are assumed to be American corporations.

But that assumption is incorrect. American corporations aren’t set up to represent America’s interests in the Pacific region or anywhere else.
Either we lessen the dominance of big American corporations over American politics. Or we increase their allegiance and responsibility to America.

What’s the answer to this basic conundrum? Either we lessen the dominance of big American corporations over American politics. Or we increase their allegiance and responsibility to America.

It has to be one or the other. Americans can’t thrive within a political system run largely by big American corporations — organized to boost their share prices but not boost America.

4 Numbers That Prove America Is a Deeply Messed Up Place

And no matter which party is in control, they sell their fuzzy bullshit numbers like they are real, meanwhile in this "resurgent" economy, more and more people are suffering while the wealthy increase their wealth in obscene amounts.

The mainstream media rarely publishes facts like this.

There's something perversely wrong with a society that creates $30 trillion in new wealth while putting six million more children on food stamps.
The mainstream media rarely publishes facts like this. The super-rich keep building up their own numbers, as quietly as possible. And our leading members of Congress have little need for numbers, except for budget cuts and the strings of zeros at the end of their campaign contributions.

But numbers have the power to reveal the dramatic fall of the middle class over the past 35 years.

1. 138,000 Kids Were Homeless while 115,000 Households Were Each Making $10 Million Per Year

Recent data has shown that the richest .1% (115,000 households) have each increased their wealth by an astonishing $10 million per year. As they counted their money on a frigid night in January, 138,000 children, according to the U.S. Department of Housing, were without a place to call home.

2. The Average U.S. Household Pays $400 to Feed and Clothe Walmart, McDonalds, and Other Low-Wage Workers

The Economic Policy Institute reports that $45 billion per year in federal, state, and other safety net support is paid to workers earning less than $10.10 an hour. Thus the average U.S. household is paying about $400 to employees in low-wage industries such as food service, retail, and personal care.

Walmart's well-advertised $1 raise will cost the company about $1 billion a year. Its profits last year were about $25 billion.

The sordid tale gets even worse, as told by a PBS report: Walmart has spent about $6.5 billion per year on stock buybacks to enrich investors, approximately the same total annual amount billed to taxpayers for food stamps, Medicaid, housing, and other safety net programs for the company's underpaid employees.

3. As $30 Trillion in New Wealth was being Created, the Number of Kids on Food Stamps Increased 70%

Before the recession, 12 out of every 100 American children got food stamps. After the recession, 20 out of every 100 American children got food stamps.
That's nearly a 70 percent increase, from 9.5 million kids in 2007 to 16 million kids in 2014, at the same time that U.S. wealth was growing by over $30 trillion. Even with that incomprehensible increase in wealth our nation was not able to ensure food security for millions of its most vulnerable citizens.

4. Despite the Decline in Food Security, the Food Stamp Program was Cut by $8.6 Billion and the Money Paid to Corporate Agriculture

As more and more children go hungry, the largest agricultural firms continue to take taxpayer money to supplement their billions in profits. The 2014 farm bill cut $8.6 billion (over the next ten years) from the food stamp program, of which nearly half of all participants are children. Meanwhile, $14 billion is annually paid out to the largest 10 percent of farm operators.

Beaten Up, Broken Down

The mainstream media highlights the "resurgent economy," the booming stock market, and the drop in unemployment. But the stock market has enriched only about ten percent of America, handing them millions of dollars since the recession, while the newly available jobs are well below the skill levels of college-trained adults and often without health care and retirement benefits.

Too many once-prosperous Americans are beaten up and broken down, waiting in vain for our elected leaders to stop the redistribution of our national wealth.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Coca-Cola's 'Simply Orange' Juice Is Anything But...



Many people choose Simply Orange juice because they believe it is a less processed, more natural choice than other brands. However, a new investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek shows that it is a "hyper-engineered and dauntingly industrial product." Coca-Cola owns Simply Orange, which is made using a process they call Black Book. Since juice production is full of variables, including a peak growing season of only 3 months, this methodology was created to produce consistent orange juice year round. They won't tell anyone how exactly the Black Book formula works, but the consultant who designed it, Bob Cross of Revenue Analytics, shared it with Bloomberg Businessweek.

Black Book is an algorithm that includes data about consumer preferences and the 600 flavors that make up an orange. Coke matches this data to a profile detailing acidity, sweetness, etc. so that they can blend batches to replicate the same taste and consistency. Black Book also incorporates external factors, such as weather patterns, anticipated crop yields, and cost pressures to allow Coke to plan ahead and ensure they have supplies on hand.

Coca-Cola's Brazilian partner, Cutrale, processes the oranges, which are grown to Coke specifications. Satellite imaging allows them to order growers to pick their fruit at the best time, as determined by Black Book. The fresh-squeezed juice is stored in Cutrale's silos and transported via a 1.2 mile underground pipeline to Coke's packaging plant, where it is flash-pasteurized. It is then piped to storage tanks where it is slowly agitated and covered with a nitrogen gas blanked to keep out oxygen, which has been sucked out of the juice, as it will cause it to spoil.

The batches from different crops and seasons are separated, based on orange type, sweetness, and acidity. Blend technicians follow Black Book instructions, adding natural flavors and fragrances captured during squeezing back into the juice to make up for the flavor lost in processing. "When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature," explains Alissa Hamilton, author of Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice.

If you're looking for an all-natural orange juice experience, free of algorithms and flavor packs, your best bet is to juice it yourself, go to a juice bar, or take Hamilton's suggestion and enjoy a whole Valencia orange instead.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Your Internet Friends Are Real

Let’s Really Be Friends
A defense of online intimacy

By Kyle Chayka The New Republic

In 1997, a writer and web developer named Paul Ford walked into a sushi restaurant in midtown Manhattan to meet a group of strangers. These were bloggersa term not yet widely in usewho, along with Ford, formed a tight-knit vanguard of individuals publishing personal writing online. Ford had been building experimental personal websites since 1993, and had made a name for himself online with his lyrical missives on programming esoterica and New York dating mishaps. He’d never met the other bloggers IRL (In Real Life, a phrase that likely had even less currency then than blogger). He was excited to finally get the chance to do so.

When Ford arrived at the restaurant, however, he froze with anxiety. “I was 22 and the Internet was new and everyone was sitting around a table chatting and laughing,” Ford told me. “Who went to parties where no one knew each other?” He stood just inside the door and surreptitiously watched the group clustered around a table. “I left after ten minutes.”

This incident remains as strikingly plausible today as it did two decades ago. Relationships that travel from the Internet to the nondigital world, or navigate a space somewhere in between, have retained that same patina of weirdness. The stigma associated with online friendship, that persistent doubt that “real” intimacy can only be created via physical encounter, has not faded. Even in this, the Age of Social Media, when virtual interaction populates almost every facet of daily existence, online friendships are still viewed with suspicion. But they shouldn’t be. The time has come to obliterate the false distinctions between digital ties and the ones that bind us in the physical world. Our lives on Twitter and Tumblr are today a real part of our real lives. Everyone is an Internet friend.

John Suler, in his 2000 book The Psychology of Cyberspace, wrote that people “tend to separate their online lives from their offline lives.” But this is far less true today. With the launch of Friendster (2002); MySpace (2003); and, in 2004, the global behemoth Facebook, distinctions between friendship online and off grew more ambiguous. People had to decide which of their friends and acquaintancesmany of whom they had not been motivated to see in yearsthey should befriend digitally. Facebook in particular, with its early reliance on college e-mail accounts for membership, has tied digital identity more firmly to the IRL iteration.

The perception that online relationships are somehow less real than their physical counterparts exemplifies what Nathan Jurgenson, a New York-based sociologist and researcher for the messaging platform Snapchat, calls “digital dualism.” Contemporary identities and relationships are no more or less authentic in either space. “We’re coming to terms with there being just one reality and digital is part of it, not any less real or true,” Jurgenson said. “What you do online and what you do face-to-face are completely interwoven.”

The first mainstream internet communitiesand thus some of the earliest virtual friendshipsdidn’t emerge until the late ’80s, when commercial traffic was allowed online via private Internet service providers like The World, which launched in Massachusetts in 1989. Early online social groups were largely restricted to specific-interest cliques that hewed to the medium’s nerd origins. Usenet, an e-mail and file-sharing client created to sort news by subject, first launched in 1980; the WELL, a dial-up bulletin-board system co-founded in 1985 by hippie futurist and editor of the utopian Whole Earth Catalog Stewart Brand, became a popular gathering point for Grateful Dead fans. IRC, or Internet Relay Chats, were likewise segregated along topical channels, like #anime or #hardware or #geek. The platform peaked in the 1990s with Eris Free Network, and today is largely reserved for illicit hacker groups with a need for anonymity.

In this early period, crossover from the digital world and into the real one remained rare, in part due to suspicion of the semi-anonymous nature of the Internet itself. “You don’t tend to find deep relationships online,” Douglas Rushkoff, the tech writer and thinker, told me. “And if you look for them you could easily get catfished,” Rushkoff said. (Catfish [noun]: “Someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.” See Urban Dictionary.) For those who have grown up on the Internet, the expectations of honesty in response to the existential chat query “A/S/L?” (Age/Sex/Location) might be low. But this may not remain the case.

Online traffic in the United States increased by more than 1,000 percent between 1999 and 2003. A by-product of this growth was a narrowing of the digital divide. Enough people were online that your real friends might well know your online-only ones, who could then be mentally reclassified simply friends-of-friends. IRL meetings became less suspect. Web communities, meanwhile, began to leave the vertical depths of niche interest and join the mainstream. In 1999, a web designer named Matthew Haughey launched MetaFilter, a general-interest online forum that is still active today. MetaFilter was designed to help users share links of compelling posts (cat videos!) from across the wider Internet. It also became known for its then-unique penchant for physical meetups. “The meetups were half shy nerds and half relatively normal people,” said Rusty Foster, a developer who founded a contemporaneous (and now largely defunct) community called Kuro5hin, which skewed toward a nerdier audience. Foster has since referred to his site as a “gated dysfunctional community.”

The first MetaFilter meetup happened in 2001, after an earthquake in Seattle. Discussion of the natural phenomenon as it happened caused the members to notice that they lived in close proximity to each other. Once it was safe to go out, they decided to gather at a bar. It went so well that Haughey soon devoted a section of his site to planning such events. Haughey attended his first meetup at a Belgian frites spot in San Francisco in 2002. “I was incredibly nervous, because I didn’t know anyone,” he said. But his fears proved misplaced. “It was really a great experience. One of the guys had the greatest username: Fishfucker. 

Fishfucker turned out to be a really nice dude.” Meetups eventually became big business. In 2002, a start-up called Meetup was launched that managed online social circles with an IRL component, charging group organizers for added features. The site now boasts over 180,000 Meetups with focuses ranging from New Age philosophy to “geek physique.” (The Internet’s ability to convene niche cultures has never flagged.)
The anxiety still lingering around Internet friendship is a legacy of a particular antiquated conception of online lifea sense that “the Net,” like jetpacks and the Segway, was going to be a lot cooler than it has proven to be. The 1980s-era techno-utopian vision of “cyberspace” as a separate, and perhaps even pure, Matrix-style realm of glowing tubes and binary code was a false one. “At no point was there ever a cyberspace,” Jurgenson said. “It was always deeply about this one reality.” The Internet is shopping for knitted caps and sharing coupons for bad meals and enduring comments from sexist strangers. It has always included an element of real life difficulty, and the primordial web denizens knew it. Now, the rest of us do, too. We once fetishized cyberspace as sexy and revolutionary. Today it’s just normal.

Online friendships make it clearand forgive the debt to Facebookthat the way we friend now has changed. Intimacy now develops in both digital and physical realms, often crossing freely between the two. If we accept the equal value of virtual friendships to their IRL analogues (perhaps even doing away with the pejorative acronym), we open ourselves up to a range of new possibilities for connection.

“The Internet represents a broadening of the spectrum of relationships we can have,” Jenna Wortham, a New York Times Magazine writer known for the prolificacy of her online social life, told me. “I have lots of online-, Gchat-only friendships and I love them. I’m very comfortable with the fact that I don’t know [these people] in real life and I don’t have any plans to.” The merit of these friendships lies in their mutabilityin your pocket, on your screen, in your living room. Discarding the distinction between real and virtual friendship does not doom us to a society in which tweets, chat, and e-mail are our only points of contact. It just means that the stranger we meet every day on the other side of our screens will no longer be a stranger, but someone that we know and trust.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Since the City of Denton Banned Fracking, Texas GOP Moves to Pre-empt Local Control

Sunday, 08 March 2015By Candice Bernd, Truthout | Report 

    Carol Soph, a board member of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, the driving force behind Denton's fracking ban, speaks with Rep. Phil King about her concerns regarding a bill he introduced in response to the Denton ban that would gut cities' ability to introduce similar measures or regulations. King is this year's national chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
    "I do feel very strongly that air-quality measures and the engineering and scientific issues of oil and gas should be regulated at the state level, where the expertise is," Texas Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) told a group of North Texans Monday, March 2, during a meeting in his Capitol office about a bill he introduced that would create barriers to a city's ability to regulate the oil and gas industry.

    The room was largely filled with people from Denton, which passed Texas' first ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within city limits. Since the ban passed last fall in a landslide victory, state lawmakers connected to the oil and gas industry and to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have introduced a number of bills aimed at undermining local democracy, ostensibly to prevent other cities from following Denton's lead.

    Activists, however, says these bills would effectively kill local democracy so that citizens would lose the ability to introduce ballot referendums, and local governments would be unable to regulate industry to protect the health and safety of residents.

    "The reason that we're here is because the state did a terrible job. That's why the opposition [to oil and gas drilling] is growing," said Sharon Wilson, a Gulf coast organizer with Earthworks, in response to King's assessment.

    King continued to assert his confidence in state oil and gas regulators and told the group he plans to move forward with his bills. One of the bills would allow the state to reject a municipal ordinance and the other would require a city to assess the tax revenue cost of any attempt to regulate oil and gas.

    At the March 2 meeting, about 40 residents from Denton, Dallas, Arlington, Mansfield, Grand Prairie and Pantego expressed concerns about the state-level regulatory lapses that brought Denton to the point of banning fracking. These lapses are driving many other cities across the state to make their local oil and gas regulations stronger.

    As a resident of Denton myself, I watched the city struggle for more than five years to regulate the oil and gas industry's activities within city limits. Yet oil and gas companies refused to follow many of the rules the city adopted when it revised its gas drilling ordinance in 2013, claiming instead that their drilling activities were grandfathered under old rules. Finally, Denton was left with no other option but to ban fracking entirely in 2014, delivering a blow to the industry in a city on the same shale where the drilling technique was pioneered in the '90s.

    Years earlier, Denton City Council members had instructed residents to take their concerns about gas drilling to Austin, telling many of my neighbors that their hands were simply tied at the local level. Residents took their advice and traveled to Austin multiple times, but rather than finding the help they were seeking, Austin lawmakers at the time sent representatives of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group (DAG) back to Denton, telling them explicitly that it was a local issue. Now, as it turns out, they seem to be changing their minds.

    "We did work on [regulating drilling] at the state level, and Phil King and Myra Crownover and Tan Parker did everything they could to undermine getting anything passed at the state level," said former Fort Worth Rep. Lon Burnam, who now works for Public Citizen, referring to Denton County representatives. "So they've kind of reaped what they sowed."

    King's bills are part of a wider strategy emerging in Republican-dominated state legislatures this year to curtail municipalities' regulatory authority, including their ability to pass local ordinances and citizen-led ballot referendums. The legislation often comes at the behest of industries that stand to lose money because of regulations initiated in the municipalities where they operate.

    According to The New York Times, eight states led by Republicans have prohibited municipalities from passing paid sick day legislation in just the past two years. Other such pre-emption laws have barred cities from raising the minimum wage and regulating the activities of landlords. This year, Arkansas passed a law that blocks a city's ability to pass anti-discrimination laws that would protect LGBT people, and bills introduced in six states this session would follow Arkansas' lead.

    Many industries, including, most prominently, the restaurant industry and oil and gas interests, are working together this year through ALEC, which generates "model" legislation that advances the interests of its corporate members throughout state legislatures. Rep. King is serving as ALEC's national chair this year and introduced his two pre-emption bills with Denton's fracking ban in mind.

    King denied that his role in ALEC had anything to do with the introduction of his pre-emption bills and said the bills were not model legislation created by ALEC. The organization's corporate funders have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to King over the years.

    Two other bills filed in Austin this session would go even further than King's in gutting local regulatory power: One would prevent any city or county in Texas from banning fracking, and another would effectively kill home rule authority (a city's ability to pass laws to govern itself) so that cities cannot pass local ordinances.

    State lawmakers and the oil and gas industry isn't just responding to the blow delivered to fracking interests in Texas, but also hoping to beat back frack bans nationally. Bans on hydraulic fracturing passed in local municipalities across the nation during midterms elections. Those bans, and in particular, Denton's ban - have created a backlash from the oil and gas industry and conservative statehouses in the United States.

    Last month, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that only the state - not cities or counties - has the authority to regulate oil and gas drilling, effectively killing a municipality's ability to ban the drilling practice. But in other states, judges have ruled exactly the opposite, such as in New York's Supreme Court, which in July decided that local governments did have the authority to ban fracking. In another case in Pennsylvania, a court ruled that cities have the authority to regulate fracking, but not to outlaw it.

    "The reason all these [pre-emption] bills are being filed is [state legislators are] in a state of shock, because the people of Denton conducted an electoral revolution and passed this [fracking ban], and now they are reeling from it," Burnam said.

    Dentonites and other North Texans living on top of the Barnett Shale formation are fighting a state and industry attack on their right to determine what's best for their communities. They point out the hypocrisy of conservative lawmakers in Austin who rail against so-called "Big Government" at the federal level while simultaneously attempting to strip small municipal governments of their power.

    The grassroots activists have also been quick to point out conservative lawmakers' duplicity when it comes to property rights. They have largely framed their arguments at the state Capitol in those terms because state representatives often ignore other valuable environmental and health concerns.

    "The whole ALEC team, led by Phil King, is more considerate of the property rights of corporations than they are the property rights of homeowners and individuals, and this is what this battle is really about, because in Texas, the overriding law is deferential treatment to the subsurface mineral right owners over the surface homeowners," Burnam said.

    This contradiction was front-and-center during anti-fracking activists' meeting with Sen. Craig Estes about the bill he introduced, which mandates that cities compensate mineral owners if they pass regulations that cut into potential mineral profits.

    The activist group argued that mineral owners' rights to extract minerals and earn profits from them conflicts with the property rights of homeowners, because the industrial process of fracking can create property damage and decrease property values, as well as prevent homeowners from enjoying their property due to light, noise and air pollution created by fracking.

    Dentonites are also continuing efforts to defend their city's fracking ban at the local level. DAG members, with the help of Earthworks, are intervening in two court cases brought against the city by the Texas Oil and Gas Association and Texas' General Land Office, which argue the city's ban violates the Texas Constitution. The Denton groups asked that the cases be moved to Denton County from Travis County, and the court agreed.

    Meanwhile, Dentonites continue to testify at City Council meetings as council members once again work to revise the city's drilling ordinance, which will become the last word on drilling regulations if the city's ban is overturned in court.

    Friday, February 27, 2015

    This Modern World

    Smoking marijuana is 114 times safer than drinking alcohol – study

    "safer" being a relative term...

    As the debate over marijuana legalization continues in the United States, a new study suggests that smoking the controversial plant is about 114 times safer than drinking alcohol.

    In fact, alcohol was found to be the deadliest drug on an individual level, at least when it comes to the likelihood of a person dying due to consuming a lethal dose. Heroin and cocaine were the next most deadly substances, followed by tobacco, ecstasy, and meth. Trailing up the rear was marijuana.

     According to the team of international researchers behind the study, published in the journal 'Scientific Reports,' the findings suggest that marijuana risks – at least those related to mortality – are trumped when compared to substances like alcohol.

    “The results confirm that the risk of cannabis may have been overestimated in the past,” the report reads. “At least for the endpoint of mortality, the [margin of exposure] for THC/cannabis in both individual and population-based assessments would be above safety thresholds (e.g. 100 for data based on animal experiments). In contrast, the risk of alcohol may have been commonly underestimated.”
    As reported by the Washington Post, the study’s results aren’t exactly new, though they do confirm similar findings first reported a decade ago. In a separate story last year, the Post noted that Wayne Hall of the World Health Organization said it’s nearly impossible for even those who smoke large amounts of cannabis to overdose on the drug.

    "The estimated fatal dose [of THC, the primary active compound in marijuana] in humans derived from animal studies is between 15 and 70 grams. This is a far greater amount of cannabis that even a very heavy cannabis user could use in a day," Hall wrote last year. 

    Even alcohol’s unsafe margin of exposure (MOE) ratio isn’t all that surprising since, unlike heroin and cocaine, it is legal and much more readily available and accepted.

    Marijuana legalization advocates are welcoming the new study, using it to suggest that America’s current ban on the drug is wrong and misguided, considering the mortality rates associated with alcohol and tobacco – both of which are legal and easily accessible to those of age. Marijuana, meanwhile, is still illegal on the federal level and largely illegal on the state level – except in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

    Even the researchers noted that compared to other drugs, their findings support regulating pot as a legal substance instead of a banned one.

    “Currently, the MOE results point to risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs,” the report reads. “The high MOE values of cannabis, which are in a low-risk range, suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach.”
    Despite the new study, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions that pot should not be smoked by children or teenagers, as there have been studies suggesting a link between youth smoking and impaired child development.

    Sunday, February 22, 2015

    What We Are Not Being Told About Suicide And Depression

    Shouldn’t researchers examine societal and cultural variables that are making us depressed and suicidal?

    For nearly two decades, Big Pharma commercials have falsely told Americans that mental illness is associated with a chemical brain imbalance, but the truth is that mental illness and suicidality are associated with poverty, unemployment, and mass incarceration. And the truth is that American society has now become so especially oppressive for young people that an embarrassingly large number of American teenagers and young adults are suicidal and depressed.

    In November of 2014, the U.S. government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued a press release titled “Nearly One in Five Adult Americans Experienced Mental Illness in 2013.” This brief press release provides a snapshot of the number of Americans who are suicidal, depressed, and mentally ill, and it bemoans how many Americans are not in treatment. However, excluded from SAMHSA’s press release—yet included in the lengthy results of SAMHSA’s national survey—are economic, age, gender, and other demographic correlates of serious mental illness, depression, and suicidality (serious suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts). It is these demographic correlates that have political implications.

    These lengthy results, for example, include extensive evidence that involvement in the criminal justice system (such as being on parole or probation) is highly correlated with suicidality, depression, and serious mental illness. Yet Americans are not told that preventing unnecessary involvement with the criminal justice system—for example, marijuana legalization and drug use decriminalization—could well prove to be a more powerful antidote to suicidality, depression, and serious mental illness than medical treatment.

    Also, the survey results provide extensive evidence that unemployment and poverty are highly associated with suicidality, depression, and serious mental illness. While correlation is not the equivalent of causation, it makes more sense to be further examining variables that actually are associated with suicidality, depression, and serious mental illness rather than focusing on variables such as chemical imbalances which are not even correlates (see AlterNet January 2015). These results beg questions such as: Does unemployment and poverty cause depression, or does depression make it more likely for unemployment and poverty, or are both true?

    And the survey results also provide extensive evidence that younger Americans are more depressed than older Americans, that women are more likely to be depressed than men, and that Native Americans and biracial Americans are more likely to be depressed than other ethnic/racial groups. Again, while correlation is not the equivalent of causation, depression obviously cannot cause one to become young, female, or Native American. More rationally, researchers should be asking what is it about American society that is so depressing, especially for young people, women, and Native Americans?

    These recent SAMHSA survey results provide a golden opportunity for a scientific and societal shift to reconsider what about American society and culture is resulting in emotional suffering and self-destructive behaviors, especially for certain groups. Below is a summary of some of the key statistics in these buried SAMHSA survey results.

    Summary of Buried SAMHSA Survey Results
    Involvement with the Criminal Justice System: In 2013, the percentage of American adults with serious suicidal thoughts: 10.7 percent for those on parole or a supervised release from jail in the past 12 months, 9.2 percent among those who were on probation, and 3.9 percent for those not involved in the criminal justice system. The percentage for adults with any mental illness: if on probation was 32.3 percent, if on parole or supervised release, 36.5 percent, double the percentage of adults not involved in the criminal justice system (18.3 percent). The percentage of adults with serious mental illness: if on probation was 9.4 percent, if on parole or supervised release was 13.9 percent, more than triple for those not involved in the criminal justice system (4.1 percent).

    Unemployment: Among American adults in 2013, the unemployed were more likely than those who were employed full time: to have serious thoughts of suicide (7.0 vs. 3.0 percent), make suicide plans (2.3 vs. 0.7 percent), or attempt suicide (1.4 vs. 0.3 percent). The percentage of adults with any mental illness: for the unemployed was 22.8 percent, for part-time employed was 20.3 percent, and for full-time employed was 15.4 percent. Among adults with serious mental illness: the percentage for the unemployed was 6.6 percent, for part-time employed was 4.8 percent, and for those full-time employed was 2.7 percent. Among those adults having a major depression episode: the percentage for the unemployed was 9.5 percent, for part-time employed was 7.8 percent, and for full-time employed was 5.3 percent.

    Family Income: Among American adults in 2013, serious suicidal thoughts occurred in: 6.6 percent of those from family incomes below the Federal poverty level, 4.7 percent of those with family incomes between 100 and 199 percent of the Federal poverty level, and 3.1 percent of those with annual family incomes at 200 percent or more of the Federal poverty level. Among American adults, the percentage with serious mental illness: for those with a family income that was below the Federal poverty level was 7.7 percent, for those with a family income at 100 to 199 percent of the Federal poverty level was 5.1 percent, and for those with a family income at 200 percent or more of the Federal poverty level was 3.2 percent.

    Age: No suicidality results were reported for Americans under 18, however, among American adults having serious suicidal thoughts, the percentage: for those aged 18 to 25 was 7.4 percent, for those aged 26 to 49 was 4.0 percent, and for those aged 50 or older was 2.7 percent. And among adults who made suicide plans in the past year: the percentage for those aged 18 to 25 was 2.5 percent, for those aged 26 to 49 was 1.3 percent, and for those aged 50 or older was 0.6 percent. The percentage of Americans having a major depressive episode in 2013: for those aged 12 to 17 was 10.7 percent, for those aged 18 to 25 was 8.7 percent, for those aged 26 to 49 was 7.6 percent, and for those aged 50 or older was 5.1 percent.

    Gender: In 2013, adult women were more likely than adult men to have: any mental illness (22.3 vs. 14.4 percent), a serious mental illness (4.9 vs. 3.5 percent), a major depressive episode (8.1 vs. 5.1 percent), and suicidal thoughts (4.0 vs. 3.8 percent). Among American ages 12 to 17, females were more likely than males to have a major depressive episode (16.2 vs. 5.3 percent) and a major depressive episode with severe impairment (12.0 vs. 3.5 percent).

    Ethnicity/Race: In 2013, the percentages of adults aged 18 or older having serious thoughts of suicide in the past year were: 2.9 percent among blacks, 3.3 percent among Asians, 3.6 percent among Hispanics, 4.1 percent among whites, 4.6 percent among Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, 4.8 percent among American Indians or Alaska Natives, and 7.9 percent among adults reporting two or more races. The percentages of adults with a major depressive episode: were 1.6 percent among Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, 4.0 percent among Asians, 4.6 percent among blacks, 5.8 percent among Hispanics, 7.3 percent among whites, 8.9 percent among American Indians or Alaska Natives, and 11.4 percent among adults reporting two or more races.

    The SAMHSA press release states that among American adults in 2013: 10 million American adults (4.2 percent) experienced a serious mental illness, 15.7 million adults (6.7 percent) experienced a major depressive episode, and states that “major depressive episodes affected approximately one in ten (2.6 million) youth between the ages of 12 to 17.” The press release then laments how many Americans with mental illnesses are not receiving treatment.

    While these statistics in the SAMHSA press release are troubling, the devil is in the details of the actual lengthy SAMHSA survey results. These results make clear that suicidality, depression, and mental illness are highly correlated with involvement in the criminal justice system, unemployment, and poverty, and occur in greater frequency among young people, women, and Native Americans.

    Shouldn’t researchers be examining American societal and cultural variables that are making so many of us depressed and suicidal? At the very least, don’t we as a society want to know what exactly is making physically healthier teenagers and young adults more depressed than senior citizens?

    5 Facts That Show Half of America Is Seriously Struggling

    The media celebrates "economic growth," while new data shows most Americans are barely surviving.

    Happy Monday! S&P 500 now up 10% for year --CNN Money
    Third-quarter U.S. economic growth strongest in 11 years --Reuters
    The U.S. economy is on a tear --Wall Street Journal 

    Half of our nation, by all reasonable estimates of human need, is in poverty. The jubilant headlines above speak for people whose view is distorted by growing financial wealth. The argument for a barely surviving half of America has been made before, but important new data is available to strengthen the case.

    1. No Money for Unexpected Bills 

    A recent Bankrate poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans didn't have savings available to cover a $500 repair bill or a $1,000 emergency room visit.

    A related Pew survey concluded that over half of U.S. households have less than one month's income in readily available savings, and that ALL their savings -- including retirement funds -- amounted to only about four months of income.

    And young adults? A negative savings rate, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Before the recession their savings rate was a reasonably healthy 5 percent.

    2. 40 Percent Collapse in Household Wealth 

    Over half of Americans have good reason to feel poor. Between 2007 and 2013 median wealth dropped a shocking 40 percent, leaving the poorest half with negative wealth (because of debt), and a full 60% of households owning, in total, about as much as the nation's 94 richest individuals.

    People of color fare the worst, with half of black households owning less than $11,000 in total wealth, and Hispanic households less than $14,000. The median net worth for white households is about $142,000.

    3. Cost of Living Surges as Income Falls 

    Official poverty measures are based largely on the food costs of the 1950s. But food costs have doubledsince 1978, housing has more than tripled, and college tuition is eleven times higher. The cost of raising a child increased by 40 percent between 2000 and 2010. And despite the gains from Obamacare, health care expenses continue to grow.

    As all these essential costs have been going up, median household income has been going down since 2000, with the greatest drop occurring since 2009, as 95 percent of the post-recession income gains have gone to the richest 1%.

    4. Lots of New Jobs (Below Living Wage) 

    'Amazing' jobs report, apart from wages --Marketwatch 

    Amazing at the top and at the bottom. According to the Federal Reserve Bank, there have been job gains at the highest paid level -- engineering, finance, computer analysis; and there have been job gains at thelowest paid level -- personal health care, retail, and food preparation.

    But the jobs that kept the middle class out of poverty -- education, construction, social services, transportation, administration -- have seen a decline since the recession, especially in the northeast. At a national level jobs gained are paying 23 percent less than jobs lost.

    Worse yet, the lowest paid workers, those in housekeeping and home health care and food service, haveseen their wages drop 6 to 8 percent (although wages overall rose about 2 percent in 2014).

    5. Our Greatest Shame: Half of the Children Feeling Poverty 

    Over half of public school students are poor enough to qualify for lunch subsidies. There's been a stunning70 percent increase since the recession in the number of children on food stamps. State of Working America reported that almost half of black children under the age of six are living in poverty.

    The celebratory quotes about a booming economy seem so far away.