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.