October 5, 2011
By: Pauli Poisuo
If there’s one thing in the world the food industry is dead set against, it’s allowing you to actually maintain some level of control over what you eat. See, they have this whole warehouse full of whatever they bought last week when they were drunk that they need to get rid of — and they will do so by feeding it all to you. And it doesn’t matter how many pesky “lists of ingredients” and consumer protections stand between you and them.
#6. The Secret Ingredient: Wood
You know what’s awesome? Newspaper. Or, to be precise, the lack thereof. The Internet and other electric media have all but eaten up classic print media, with the circulations of almost all papers on the wane. Say, do you ever wonder what they do with all that surplus wood pulp?
“But Cracked,” you inquire, “what does this have to do with food ingredients?”
And we look at you squarely in the eye, then slowly bring our gaze upon the half-eaten bagel in your hand.
Oh, shit …
What do they do with all the cellulose wood pulp? They hide it behind a bullshit name and make you eat it, that’s what.
And everybody’s doing it. Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup? Cellulose. Pillsbury Pastry Puffs? Cellulose. Kraft Bagel-Fuls? Fast-food cheese? Sara Lee’s breakfast bowls? Cellulose, cellulose, goddamn cellulose.
It turns out that cellulose can provide texture to processed foods, so food companies have taken to happily using it as a replacement for such unnecessary and inconveniently expensive ingredients as flour and oil. As the 30 percent cheaper cellulose is edible and non-poisonous, the FDA has no interest for restricting its use — or, for that matter, the maximum amount of it that food companies can use in a product. It is pretty much everywhere, and even organic foods are no salvation — after all, cellulose used to be wood and can therefore be called organic, at least to an extent.
But the worst thing about cellulose is not that it’s everywhere. The worst thing is that it is not food at all. Cellulose is, unlike the actual, normal food items you think you’re paying for, completely indigestible by human beings, and it has no nutritional value to speak of. If a product contains enough of it, you can literally get more nutrients from licking the sweet, sweet fingerprints off its wrapper.
#5. Zombie Orange Juice
Quick, name the most healthy drink your nearest store has to offer. You said orange juice, didn’t you? It’s what everybody makes you drink when you get sick. Hell, that shit must be like medicine or something. And the labels are always about health benefits — the cartons scream “100 percent natural!”, “Not from concentrate!” and “No added sugar!”
And why not believe them? When it comes to making the stuff, orange juice isn’t sausage. You take oranges, you squeeze oranges, you put the result in a carton, with or without pulp. End of story, beginning of deliciousness.
But what if we told you that “freshly squeezed” juice of yours can very well be a year old, and has been subjected to stuff that would make the Re-Animator puke?
Ever wonder why every carton of natural, healthy, 100 percent, not-from-concentrate orange juice manages to taste exactly the same, yet ever so slightly different depending on the brand, despite containing no additives or preservatives whatsoever?
The process indeed starts with the oranges being squeezed, but that’s the first and last normal step in the process. The juice is then immediately sealed in giant holding tanks and all the oxygen is removed. That allows the liquid to keep without spoiling for up to a year. That’s why they can distribute it year-round, even when oranges aren’t in season.
There is just one downside to the process (from the manufacturers’ point of view, that is) — it removes all the taste from the liquid. So, now they’re stuck with vats of extremely vintage watery fruit muck that tastes of paper and little else. What’s a poor giant beverage company to do? Why, they re-flavor that shit with a carefully constructed mix of chemicals called a flavor pack, which are manufactured by the same fragrance companies that formulate CK One and other perfumes. Then they bottle the orange scented paper water and sell it to you.
And, thanks to a loophole in regulations, they often don’t even bother mentioning the flavor pack chemicals in the list of ingredients. Hear that low moan from the kitchen? That’s the Minute Maid you bought yesterday. It knows you know.
#4. Ammonia-Infused Hamburger
Any restaurant that serves hamburger goes out of its way to reassure you how pure and natural it is. Restaurant chains like McDonald’s (“All our burgers are made from 100 percent beef, supplied by farms accredited by nationally recognized farm assurance schemes”) and Taco Bell (“Like all U.S. beef, our 100 percent premium beef is USDA inspected, then passes our 20 quality checkpoints”) happily vouch for the authenticity of their animal bits. Their testaments to the healthiness and fullness of their meat read out like they were talking about freaking filet mignon.
And aside from the rare E.coli outbreak, the meat is clean. It’s how they get it clean that’s unsettling.
Ammonia. You know, the harsh chemical they use in fertilizers and oven cleaners? It kills E.coli really well. So, they invented a process where they pass the hamburger through a pipe where it is doused in ammonia gas. And you probably never heard about it, other than those times that batches of meat stink of ammonia so bad that the buyer returns it.
The ammonia process is an invention of a single company called Beef Products Inc., which originally developed it as a way to use the absolute cheapest parts of the animal, instead of that silly “prime cuts” stuff the competitors were offering (and the restaurant chains swear we’re still getting). Consequently, Beef Products Inc. has pretty much cornered the burger patty market in the U.S. to the point that 70 percent of all burger patties out there are made by them. Thanks, ammonia!
September 1st, 2011
The Wall Street Journal
By: James R. Hagerty and Kris Maher
Gibson Guitar Corp., a big user of ebony and other scarce woods, for years has allied itself with Greenpeace and other environmental groups to show it was serious about preserving forests.
That didn’t stop the Nashville-based company, whose guitars are used by such musicians as B.B. King and Angus Young of AC/DC, from running afoul of U.S. authorities over allegedly illegal imports of wood. Though no charges have been filed, Gibson factories have been raided twice, most recently last week, by federal agents who say ebony exported from India to Gibson was “fraudulently” labeled to conceal a contravention of Indian export law.
Henry Juszkiewicz, chief executive officer of the closely held company, said in an interview that a broker probably made a mistake in labeling the goods but that the sale was legal and approved by Indian authorities.
Gibson’s predicament, which raises concerns for musical instrument makers and other importers of wood, illustrates the pitfalls of complying with U.S. law while dealing with middlemen in faraway countries whose legal systems can be murky.
The law ensnaring Gibson is the Lacey Act of 1900, originally passed to regulate trade in bird feathers used for hats and amended in 2008 to cover wood and other plant products. It requires companies to make detailed disclosures about wood imports and bars the purchase of goods exported in violation of a foreign country’s laws.
Leonard Krause, a consultant in Eugene, Ore., who advises companies on complying with the Lacey Act, is telling clients they should hire lawyers in countries where they obtain products. “How many people know the statutes in India?” Mr. Krause said. “The net effect is that it raises everybody’s cost of doing business.”
Federal agents first raided Gibson factories in November 2009 and were back again Aug. 24, seizing guitars, wood and electronic records. Gene Nix, a wood product engineer at Gibson, was questioned by agents after the first raid and told he could face five years in jail.
“Can you imagine a federal agent saying, ‘You’re going to jail for five years’ and what you do is sort wood in the factory?” said Mr. Juszkiewicz, recounting the incident. “I think that’s way over the top.” Gibson employees, he said, are being “treated like drug criminals.”
Mr. Nix hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing. He couldn’t be reached for comment.
A Justice Department spokesman declined comment. While Justice Department officials pursue what they say is a possible criminal case against Gibson, they and the company are battling in federal district court in Nashville over whether materials seized in the 2009 raid should be returned to Gibson. That civil fight provides indications of the case the government is trying to make against Gibson.
Mr. Nix went to Madagascar in June 2008 on a trip organized by environmental groups to talk to local officials about selling responsibly harvested wood to makers of musical instruments. Afterward, in emails later seized by the government, he referred to “widespread corruption and theft of valuable woods” and the possibility of buying ebony and rosewood from Madagascar on “the grey market.”
In a June 4 court filing, Jerry Martin, U.S. Attorney for central Tennessee, quoted the emails, and said “Nix knew that the grey market meant purchasing contraband.”
Gibson has denied the allegation and said Mr. Nix’s emails were quoted out of context.
The government has focused on a March 2009 shipment of ebony from Madagascar intended for guitar fingerboards. Madagascar law bars the export of certain unfinished wood products, according to both Gibson and the government. Gibson says the ebony had been cut into pieces and that local officials approved the export as a legal sale of finished goods.
U.S. officials described the wood as “sawn timber” and said Madagascar officials were “defrauded” by a local exporter about the nature of the product.
Gibson says the government is trying to “second guess” the Madagascar government. “The U.S. government’s startling position smacks of something from an Orwell novel,” Gibson said in a July 15 court filing in federal district court in Nashville.
After the 2009 raid, Gibson stopped buying wood from Madagascar. Gibson continued to use suppliers in India for ebony and rosewood.
As for last week’s raid, the government said it had evidence that Indian ebony was “fraudulently” labeled in an attempt to evade an Indian ban on exports of unfinished wood.
“It is very possible that a broker made the mistake in filling out a form,” Mr. Juszkiewicz said. Gibson says the ebony was partially finished for use as fingerboards and that Indian officials have endorsed such exports as legal. A spokesman for India’s commerce ministry had no immediate comment.
After the 2009 raid, Mr. Juszkiewicz resigned from the board of the Rainforest Alliance, which seeks to preserve tropical forests. He said he didn’t want to tar the nonprofit with bad publicity. A Rainforest Alliance spokeswoman said he wasn’t pressured to step down, and the group continues to praise Gibson’s efforts to promote responsible harvesting of wood.
Scott Paul, a Greenpeace official in New York responsible for forestry issues, said Gibson for years has done “great work” to promote better forestry practices. The question, he said, is whether Gibson did everything possible to avoid buying wood from dubious sources. “We have no idea,” he said.
Today, Kevin goes over the important rules to follow before jumping into a business venture or making an investment. Plus, find out how the Shroud of Turin defies science and why people are so angry about Kevin’s dissertation about the Iraqi Dinar.
Wall St. Mogul Picked For State Department Post
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June 30, 2010
By Tom Chivers
At the moment the tiny robot – a sheet just half a millimetre thick, scarcely thicker than a piece of paper – only folds itself into a boat, like a child’s toy, or a “paper glider” plane shape. But it is anticipated that in future it will be used to create full-sized cars and aircraft that morph as they move, or robots that can “flow” like mercury into small openings, or multipurpose military uniforms that can adapt to different environments.
Researchers at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) launched the project in 2007 in conjunction with Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is a small sheet of stiff tiles and “joints” of elastomer, “studded with thin foil actuators and flexible electronics. The demonstration material contains 25 total actuators, divided into five groupings. A shape is produced by triggering the proper actuator groups in sequence,” according to a statement by Robert Wood, the head of the Harvard research team.